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Awamori popularity spurs overseas exports to U.S.

Date Posted: 2004-07-29

First, the native Okinawa liquor became a success in the southern islands.

Now, Miyako-based awamori distiller Taragaa is spearheading efforts to sell the potent spirit to consumers in the U.S.

Taragaa Distillery Co. President Kei-ichiro Sunagawa says his company is currently exporting awamori to bars and restaurants in Las Vegas, San Francisco and Los Angeles areas. He also said that efforts are on way to get the drink to supermarkets and liquor stores in those areas.

Speaking at a news conference, Sunagawa said his company started sales effort to the States in earnest beginning in May this year. “We concentrate on selling our ‘Ryukyu Ocho’ brand, and so far the response has been good,” Sunagawa says.

Taragaa’s North American sales representative, Yoshiro Tome, says that although the initial response has been very good, much needs to be done. “Actually awamori has been available in North America at Okinawan and Japanese specialty stores for some time, but we want to sell to general public. That’s why we must educate the American public about awamori. Things like what is awamori made of, what makes for good awamori, how to drink it, and so on,” Tome says.

He admits that because of freight costs, awamori in the U.S. is somewhat pricey. “Ryukyu Ocho now sells for $19 to $21 per 750 ml bottle. “Never the less we have sold 3,600 bottles within the first three months, and expect to sell at least 9,000 bottles by the end of the year,” Sunagawa said.

Taragaa did not start its export effort without preparations. “We started planning this venture already four years ago. We studied American markets and made thorough plans how to promote awamori,” Sunagawa said.

“Okinawa is famous for healthy food and drink. We plan to build our success on that.”

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